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Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Favorite French Blogs and Web Sites

 Last night while teaching a class on winter soups from Sunday Soup, I mentioned to my students that I had just returned from Paris where I had spent a good part of a three-week stay trying new restaurants. Whenever I give a course, I can’t stop, as a devoted Francophile, from talking about the French, their customs, their food, their art. So, it wasn’t surprising that at the end of this class several people (a few with plans to visit France this year) asked me to recommend some blogs, and web sites.   
It then dawned on me that my followers would be interested in the French blogs and sites that I read. Here are my top five favorites.

French Word-A-Day: Kristin Espinasse, an American married to a French wine-maker in the South of France, recounts her daily life with her husband and two teenagers. In each of her three weekly posts, she includes French words and expressions in touching stories. At the end of each narrative, she lists the vocabulary words with definitions and an audio for pronunciation. I love her honest, direct style and have become one of more than 30,000 people reading her tales of French life.

Hungry for Paris: Alec Lobrano, a former correspondent for Gourmet Magazine and one of Paris’ best known American restaurant reviewers, has an amazing site filled with the latest news about restaurants in Paris and throughout France. His posts are detailed, intimately written and will make you long to be at the table with him.

John Talbotts’ Paris- John Talbott posts several times every week on his restaurant forays in Paris. His style is brief and to the point, and his posts are filled with practical information and photos about the newest and most interesting places to dine in Paris.

Paris by Mouth: This is a fabulous site about all things culinary in Paris. It’s a collaborative effort that includes restaurant reviews by such notable American writers as  Alec Lobrano, John Talbot, and Patricia Wells. French gourmands as well offer their opinions. You’ll find information and reviews for restaurants, wine bars, pastry, bread, and cheese shops and more.

The Provence Post: This is a blog written by Julie Mautner, an American who lives in St-Remy-de-Provence. You never know what Julie will post, but her style is so warm and engaging that I always read every word. One day she might describe an art exhibition or a concert in a nearby town; on another she shows you the photo of a fabulous villa for sale in her area. She might share a favorite restaurant or culinary experience another time. With each post, she makes you wish you were living in Provence.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cooking in a Small Paris Apartment Kitchen

Photo from Sunday Roasts by Susie Cushner

The kitchen in the Paris apartment we rent is tiny without much counter space, but it does have a 4-burner gas cook top, a dishwasher, and a garbage disposal (a rarity here).
The oven is my real challenge. It measures only about 18 inches wide by 14 high and is not deep. Try roasting in it. There are no temperature settings, just numbers with French names accompanying the figures--5 is for “cake,” 6 and 7 are marked “white meat, veal, and soufflés,” while 8 says “flans,” and 9 indicates “red meat.” Go figure!

Over the decade that we have been staying in this Left Bank place, I’ve learned how to turn out successes from this “ovenette.”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Winter Soup Supper-Parisian Style

My husband marvels at how easy it is for us to entertain when we’re in Paris. The secret lies in following the “cook some, buy some” philosophy I use here. Take a small dinner that we had for a couple of friends recently. I cooked a delicious winter vegetable and sausage soup topped with grated Gruyère, and prepared the vinaigrette dressing for the salad, but I purchased the rest. That’s right—I made two dishes and bought the other courses. In Paris there’s a fromagerie (cheese shop), boucherie (butcher), charcuterie (deli), boulangerie (bakery) and patisserie within walking distance in every quartier.

For appetizers, I set out bowls of Provençal olives, pistachios, and French radishes that were spread with sweet butter and then dipped in sea salt. The glorious main course soup came next accompanied by garnishes of grated cheese, parsley, and a warm crusty baguette. A salad assembled with purchased greens and sliced mushrooms (both cleaned and ready) plus a couple of delectable cheeses followed. Dessert came from a near-by patisserie. Voilà! There was my “make a little, buy a little” menu.

The French potage (based on a recipe for a “soupe du chalet” I had spotted in a French cookbook) was the star of the night.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Delightful Winter Lunch in Paris

John Talbott writes a knowledgeable and popular blog about Paris restaurants that I read faithfully. When he asked my husband and me to join him and his wife, Sue, for lunch this week, I jumped at the chance to meet this psychiatrist turned food critique. The place he had in mind was Septime, located in the 11th arrondissment, one of the capital’s flourishing new restaurant scenes.

We had been to Septime last summer for dinner, not long after it opened, and were impressed by the creative fare young chef Bernard Grébaut (who had worked at the 3-star Arpège) proposed. Each course of our tasting menu featured fresh, seasonal ingredients and was prepared with careful attention to detail. Our lunch was also delectable, and at 26 euros for 3 courses proved a better bargain than our evening meal.

My lightly poached egg and shallots floating in a delectable bouillon scented with hay (yes, you read that correctly) sprinkled with crunchy grains of black wheat was delicious and inventive.